#UNEP; #LanetaryEmergencies; #GlobalEnvironmentalPolicies
UNEP/Canadian-Media: Ministers of environment and other leaders from more than 150 nations today concluded a two-day online meeting of the Fifth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) in which the Assembly warned that the world risks new pandemics if we don’t change how we safeguard nature.
UNEP. Image credit: Twitter handle
The UN Environment Assembly meets biennially to set priorities for global environmental policies and develop international environmental law; decisions and resolutions then taken by Member States at the Assembly also define the work of the UN Environment Program (UNEP). Due to the pandemic, Member States agreed on a two-step approach to UNEA-5: an online session (22-23 February 2021) and an in-person meeting planned for February 2022.
Attended by thousands of online participants, including more than 1,500 delegates from 153 UN Member States and over 60 Ministers of the Environment, the Assembly – which was broadcast live – also agreed on key aspects of UNEP’s work, kicked off the commemoration of UNEP’s 50th anniversary and held leadership dialogues where Member States addressed how to build a resilient and inclusive post-pandemic world.
"It is increasingly evident that environmental crises are part of the journey ahead. Wildfires, hurricanes, high temperature records, unprecedented winter chills, plagues of locusts, floods and droughts, have become so common place that they do not always make the headlines," Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said in remarks to the Assembly. "These increasing adverse weather and climatic occurrences sound a warning bell that calls on us to attend to the three planetary crises that threaten our collective future: the climate crisis, the biodiversity and nature crisis, and the pollution and waste crisis."
In a political statement entitled “Looking ahead to the resumed UN Environment Assembly in 2022 – Message from online UNEA-5, Nairobi 22 – 23 February 2021” endorsed at the close of the Assembly, Member States reaffirmed UNEP’s mandate as the leading global environmental authority and called for greater and more inclusive multilateralism to tackle the environmental challenges.
The statement said the Assembly wished “to strengthen our support for the United Nations and for multilateral cooperation and remain convinced that collective action is essential to successfully address global challenges.” It went on to warn that “more than ever that human health and wellbeing are dependent upon nature and the solutions it provides, and we are aware that we shall face recurring risks of future pandemics if we maintain our current unsustainable patterns in our interactions with nature.”
Sveinung Rotevatn, President of UNEA-5 and Norway's Minister for Climate and Environment, echoed the warning.
"Everyone gathered at the Environment Assembly today are deeply concerned about how the pandemic causes new and serious health, socio-economic and environmental challenges, and exacerbates existing ones, all over the world," he told a press conference on the closing day of UNEA-5.
"We shall work together to identify actions which can help us address climate change, protect biodiversity, and reduce pollution, at the same time,” he added.
The Assembly agreed to a new Medium-Term Strategy, Programme of Work and budget for UNEP. The new Strategy – which will take UNEP from 2022-2025 – sets out a vision for UNEP’s role in delivering the promises of the 2030 Agenda.
“The strategy is about transforming how UNEP operates and engages with Member States, UN agencies, the private sector, civil society and youth groups, so we can go harder, faster, stronger,” said Ms. Inger Andersen, UNEP ‘s Executive Director. “This strategy is about providing science and know-how to governments. The strategy is also about collective, whole-of-society action – moving us outside ministries of environment to drive action.”
At an event commemorating UNEP’s upcoming 50th anniversary in 2022, Ms. Andersen acknowledged the importance of the moment to reflect on the past and envision the future.
“Indeed, the strides taken so far towards safeguarding the environment are testament to UNEP’s work,” President Kenyatta noted. “UNEP has had a lasting impact on how we care for the environment, nature and our livelihoods.”
In the run-up to the Assembly, UNEP launched a major report, together with UN Secretary-General António Guterres – Making Peace with Nature – which provides a comprehensive blueprint for solving the triple planetary emergencies of climate change, biodiversity and pollution. A number of events were also held in support of UNEA-5, including a Global Youth Assembly, a Science Policy Business Forum and the launch of a Global Alliance on Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency.
“The last few days have been encouraging. We saw a new global effort on resource-efficient, circular economies. A push on financing emission reductions from forests. Governments, scientists and businesses coming together to look at big data as a tool for change. Youth raising their voices and telling us ‘nothing about us, without us’ and calling for targeted funds to enable their deeper engagement,” Ms. Andersen added.
World risks ‘collapse of everything’ without strong climate action, Attenborough warns Security Council
#UN; #UNEP; #ClimateAction
UN/Canadian-Media: More collective action is needed to address the risks climate change poses to global peace and security, the UN Secretary-General told a high-level Security Council debate on Tuesday, as renowned natural historian David Attenborough warned countries that the planet faces total ‘collapse’.
UNEP. Image credit: Twitter handle
Climate shocks such as record high temperatures and a “new normal” of wildfires, floods, and droughts, are not only damaging the natural environment, said UN chief António Guterres, but also threatening political, economic and social stability.
“The science is clear: we need to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees by the end of the century,” the Secretary-General said.
“And our duty is even clearer: we need to protect the people and communities that are being hit by climate disruption. We must step up preparations for the escalating implications of the climate crisis for international peace and security.”
A matter of when, not if: Boris Johnson
Heads of State and Government, as well as other senior political leaders, participated in the Council meeting, which was convened by the United Kingdom, co-host of the latest global climate change conference, known as COP26, taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson chaired the online meeting, calling for action now.
“Whether you like it or not, it is a matter of when, not if, your country and your people will have to deal with the security impacts of climate change”, he said, urging them to show the global leadership necessary to keep the world safe.
Sir David Attenborough’s warning
The UK holds the rotating presidency of the 15-member Council this month, and renowned British naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough issued a sobering warning to leaders.
“If we continue on our current path, we will face the collapse of everything that gives us our security: food production, access to fresh water, habitable ambient temperature, and ocean food chains,” he said, adding “and if the natural world can no longer support the most basic of our needs, then much of the rest of civilization will quickly break down.”
While there is no going back, Sir David stressed that if countries act fast enough, “we can reach a new stable state.” He pointed to the immense public support worldwide for climate action.
“People today all over the world now realize this is no longer an issue which will affect future generations,” he said. “It is people alive today, and, in particular, young people, who will live with the consequences of our actions.”
‘Young people are the solution’
Nisreen Elsaim, a young activist from Sudan, spoke of how climate vulnerability is forcing young Africans and their counterparts elsewhere to leave their homelands, which can contribute to conflict.
“As a young person I am sure that young people are the solution”, said Ms. Elsaim, chair of the UN Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change. “Give us more space, listen to us and engage youth.”
She also welcomed the Council’s resolution establishing the new UN political mission in her country, UNITAMS, which specifically mentions climate change and youth participation as priority issues.
‘The multilateral challenge of our age’
The UN Secretary-General has repeatedly referred to climate change as “the defining issue of our time”.
In his briefing to the Council, Mr. Guterres outlined the need for action in four priority areas: prevention, protection, security and partnerships.
Under prevention, he emphasized the need for countries to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change, which seeks to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
“The climate crisis is the multilateral challenge of our age”, he said, underlining the need for unparalleled global coordination and cooperation.
“I urge Council members to use their influence during this pivotal year to ensure the success of COP26, and to mobilize others, including international financial institutions and the private sector, to do their part.”
#UN; #UNEP; #NatureBasedSolutions
UN/Canadian-Media: During this time of “crisis and fragility”, the UN chief told the United Nations Environment Assembly on Monday that human well-being and prosperity can be vastly improved by prioritizing nature-based solutions.
Painting a picture of the turmoil wreaked by COVID-19, whereby millions are being pushed into poverty, inequalities are growing among people and countries, and “a triple environmental emergency” of climate disruption, biodiversity decline and a pollution epidemic that is “cutting short some nine million lives a year”, Secretary-General António Guterres upheld in his video message that now is “a critical year to reset our relationship with nature.”
Much to accomplish
Referencing the UN Environment Program's (UNEP) newly launched Making Peace with Nature report, the UN chief acknowledged the need for a healthy planet for sustainable development.
Following the assembly, Member States will gather to address biodiversity loss, chemical pollution, ocean health, desertification and climate disruption.
Calling these events “opportunities to increase ambition and action”, Mr. Guterres pointed out the year ahead would be a busy one with “a great responsibility to articulate the environmental dimension of sustainable development”.
“Governments and people need to understand in their very DNA that all environmental, social and economic challenges are interlinked. And they must be tackled together”, he said.
A state of crisis
Against the backdrop of oceans filling with plastic and turning more acidic, the catastrophic threat of temperatures rising to more than three degrees Celsius and biodiversity declining “at a perilous rate”, the Secretary-General maintained that “there is no choice but to transform how economies and societies value nature”.
“We must put the health of the planet at the centre of all our plans and policies”, he said. “The economics are clear”.
Although more than half of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) depends on nature, the world’s capital bound up in nature, has declined 40 per cent in just over two decades, sparking the World Economic Forum to list biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse as one of the top five threats humanity will face over the next decade.
“The urgency for action has never been clearer”, Mr. Guterres said, urging the meeting to “generate a global will for action – a transformation of our relationship with nature”.
He said that by the time the next UN climate conference, known as COP26, takes take place in Glasgow in November, all countries must “come forward with more ambitious nationally determined contributions, with 2030 targets that are consistent with carbon neutrality by 2050”.
And by May’s UN Biodiversity Conference in Kunming, China, “nations must show how they will reverse species and ecosystem loss with concrete targets and means of implementation”.
Moreover, the top UN official underscored the importance of ensuring a “strong post-2020 framework” for sound chemical and waste management, advocating for “alternatives that safeguard the health of people and the environment”.
Oceans must also be guarded through ending unsustainable fishing practices, expanding marine protected areas and drastically reducing maritime pollution, he said.
He cited the success of protecting the ozone layer as “an inspiration and guide for all our efforts to protect the global environment”.
“But we all know that words are not enough. Commitments must be underpinned by clear and credible plans”, the Secretary-General said.
Hanging in the balance
“I cannot overstate the importance of your deliberations” he added, informing the assembly of his instructions to UN officials globally that they make available offices and venues to enable all countries to participate in online negotiations, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
“To a large degree, the viability of humanity on this planet depends on your efforts”, flagged the Secretary-General. “With leadership, determination and commitment to future generations, I am convinced we can provide a healthy planet for all humanity to not just survive, but to thrive”.
‘Peace with nature’
Meanwhile, UNEP chief Inger Andersen cautioned that if action is not taken, future generations “stand to inherit a hothouse planet with more carbon in the atmosphere than in 800,000 years…will live in sinking cities…[and] toxic waste – which every year is enough to fill 125,000 Olympic-size swimming pools”.
She urged “leadership for the planet”, that includes trusting science, living up to global agreements, reinventing multilateralism, financing and international solidarity and protecting the poor and the vulnerable.
“Leadership for the planet means making peace with nature”, Ms. Andersen spelled out.
UNEP/Canadian-Media: In the lead up to the Fifth Session so the UN Environment Assembly, a discussion on a new book by Maria Ivanova, The Untold Story of the World’s Leading Environmental Institution: UNEP at Fifty, took place online.
This book looks at the work of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), explaining its origin and formative years. It also elucidates its successes, crises, and turning points, explores the factors that shaped this trajectory, and presents an outlook for its future.
The book looks at how UNEP's capacity, connectivity, and credibility have been shaped by politics, geography, and individuals. It also offers a vision for a more effective “anchor institution” for the global environment.
Speakers at the event:
"The world is facing these three planetary crises and without action on them - and we need to focus on them - we are not going to heed the call from the next generation; the generation that will inherit our mess. And so, Maria, you have put the challenge before us all," said Andersen at the event.
New UNEP synthesis provides blueprint to urgently solve planetary emergencies and secure humanity’s future
Nairobi/Canadian-Media: The world can transform its relationship with nature and tackle the climate, biodiversity, and pollution crises together to secure a sustainable future and prevent future pandemics, according to a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) that offers a comprehensive blueprint for addressing our triple planetary emergency.
UNEP. Image credit: Twitter handle
The report, Making Peace with Nature, lays out the gravity of these three environmental crises by drawing on global assessments, including those from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, as well as UNEP’s Global Environment Outlook report, the UNEP International Resource Panel, and new findings on the emergence of zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19.
The authors assess the links between multiple environmental and development challenges and explain how advances in science and bold policymaking can open a pathway towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and a carbon-neutral world by 2050 while bending the curve on biodiversity loss and curbing pollution and waste. Taking that path means innovation and investment only in activities that protect both people and nature. Success will include restored ecosystems and healthier lives as well as a stable climate.
“By bringing together the latest scientific evidence showing the impacts and threats of the climate emergency, the biodiversity crisis and the pollution that kills millions of people every year, [this report] makes clear that our war on nature has left the planet broken,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in the report’s Foreword. “But it also guides us to a safer place by providing a peace plan and a post-war rebuilding program.
“By transforming how we view nature, we can recognize its true value. By reflecting this value in policies, plans, and economic systems, we can channel investments into activities that restore nature and are rewarded for it,” he added. “By recognizing nature as an indispensable ally, we can unleash human ingenuity in the service of sustainability and secure our own health and well-being alongside that of the planet.”
Amid a wave of investment to re-energize economies hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the blueprint communicates the opportunity and urgency for ambitious and immediate action. It also lays out the roles that everyone – from governments and businesses to communities and individuals – can and must play. 2021 is especially crucial, with upcoming climate and biodiversity convention meetings - UNFCCC COP 26 and CBD COP 15 – where governments must come up with synergistic and ambitious targets to safeguard the planet by almost halving greenhouse gas emissions in this decade, and by conserving and restoring biodiversity.
Tackling three planetary threats together
Economic growth has brought uneven gains in prosperity to a fast-growing global population, leaving 1.3 billion people poor, while tripling the extraction of natural resources to damaging levels and creating a planetary emergency. Despite a temporary decline in emissions due to the pandemic, Earth is heading for at least 3°C of global warming this century; more than 1 million of the estimated 8 million plant and animal species are at substantially increased risk of extinction, and diseases caused by pollution are currently killing some 9 million people prematurely every year. Environmental degradation is impeding progress towards ending poverty and hunger, reducing inequalities, and promoting sustainable economic growth, work for all, and peaceful and inclusive societies.
The report shows how this trio of environmental emergencies interact and have common causes, and thus can only be effectively addressed together. Subsidies on fossil fuels, for instance, and prices that leave out environmental costs, are driving the wasteful production and consumption of energy and natural resources that are behind all three problems.
Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, said the report highlighted the importance of changing mindsets and values and finding political and technical solutions that measure up to the Earth’s environmental crises.
“In showing how the health of people and nature are intertwined, the COVID-19 crisis has underlined the need for a step-change in how we view and value nature. By reflecting that value in decision-making – whether we are talking about economic policy or personal choices – we can bring about a rapid and lasting shift toward sustainability for both people and the environment,” she said. “‘Green recovery’ plans for pandemic-hit economies are an unmissable opportunity to accelerate the transformation.”
Released ahead of the fifth UN Environment Assembly, the report presents a strong case for why and how urgent action should be taken to protect and restore the planet and its climate in a holistic way.
It presents examples of what transformative change can look like, and how it can create prosperity, employment, and greater equality. Far-reaching change involves recasting how we value and invest in nature, integrating that value into policies and decisions at all levels, overhauling subsidies and other elements of economic and financial systems, and fostering innovation in sustainable technologies and business models. Massive private investment in electric mobility and alternative fuels shows how whole industries recognize the potential gains from shifting quickly.
The authors point out that ending environmental decline in all its forms is essential to advancing many of the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular poverty alleviation, food and water security, and good health for all. An example is how intensifying agriculture and fishing in sustainable ways, allied with changes in diets and lower food waste, can help end global hunger and poverty and improve nutrition and health while sparing more land and ocean for nature.
Reinforcing the call for action, the report stresses the need for stakeholders at all levels of society to be involved in decision-making and identifies dozens of key actions that governments, businesses, communities, and individuals can and should undertake in order to bring about a sustainable world.
Governments can include natural capital in measures of economic performance, put a price on carbon and shift trillions of dollars in subsidies from fossil fuels, non-sustainable agriculture, and transportation towards low-carbon and nature-friendly solutions.
International organizations can promote One Health approaches and ambitious international targets for biodiversity, such as expanded and improved protected area networks.
Financial organizations can stop lending for fossil fuels and develop innovative finance for biodiversity conservation and sustainable agriculture.
Businesses can adopt the principles of the circular economy to minimize resource use and waste and commit to maintaining transparent and deforestation-free supply chains
Non-government organizations can build networks of stakeholders to ensure their full participation in decisions about sustainable use of land and marine resources
Scientific organizations can pioneer technologies and policies to reduce carbon emissions, increase resource efficiency and lift the resilience of cities, industries, communities, and ecosystems.
Individuals can reconsider their relationship with nature, learn about sustainability and change their habits to reduce their use of resources, cut waste of food, water, and energy, and adopt healthier diets
A sustainable future also means learning from the COVID-19 crisis to reduce the threat of pandemic diseases. The report underlines how ecosystem degradation heightens the risk of pathogens making the jump from animals to humans, and the importance of a ‘One Health’ approach that considers human, animal, and planetary health together.
#UNEP; #Bihar; #India
UNEP/Canada: India’s Bihar State will pursue a climate resilient and low-carbon development pathway with the support of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the two entities announced today. UNEP will provide an array of support for the state’s climate goals, including through advocacy, developing climate analyses and supporting its government’s capacity to handle climate-related issues.
Image credit: UNEP
With an average of over 10 percent annual growth, Bihar has registered a higher growth than the Indian economy in the three years preceding 2019/20. However, Bihar is also a state that is vulnerable to climate change, which threatens to undermine its developmental efforts, according to the 2019-20 Bihar Economic Survey- a shift towards more sustainable development is imperative for the state’s continued economic growth.
Under the partnership, UNEP will support the state of Bihar in preparing a greenhouse gas inventory and carbon footprint analyses. UNEP will also help develop climate impact vulnerability assessments and increasing capacity of Bihar’s government departments to deal with climate-related issues. The partnership will also involve revising Bihar’s State Action Plans on Climate Change (SAPCC), under which Bihar’s climate priorities converge with India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change.
Subnational governments have a key role to play in identifying and addressing local adaptation and mitigation measures, and the local impacts of climate change. The importance of subnational governments in the climate arena has been increasingly recognized over the past several years, most notably in the Paris Agreement itself. At the signing today, Dipak Kumar Singh, Principal Secretary, Department of Environment, Forest & Climate Change reiterated the commitment of the Bihar State Government to a cleaner environment.
This UNEP-supported initiative by the Government of Bihar will also pave the way for other states to embark on this journey of climate resilience and low carbon development.
Babul Supriyo, Minister of State, Environment, Forest and Climate Change, said, “The phenomenon of climate change rings a global alarm and warrants immediate attention and action. Climate change mitigation and adaption, along with environmental sustainability, has been a focus area of the Indian Government, led from the front by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modiji. We are extremely pleased about this collaborative effort of the Bihar Government with UNEP to make Bihar a climate resilient and low-carbon development state. This is a key step in the right direction that aims at strengthening existing policies and proactive actions taken to combat climate change effectively with efficient adaption to the needs of the hour.”
Tarkishore Prasad, Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, said, “It gives me immense pleasure to note that Bihar State Pollution Control Board has joined hands with UNEP to prepare a strategy that aims for climate resilience and low-carbon development. It will add to the green initiatives already taken by the State Government such as Jal-Jeevan Hariyali Abhiyan, Agricultural Road Map, Renewable Energy Policy and Clean Fuel Policy.”
Satya S Tripathi, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Head of UNEP New York Office said, “UNEP looks forward to Bihar leading the way in India in the transition to a low-emission economy. This path-breaking partnership between UNEP and the Government of Bihar is a vital step towards achieving sustainable development for all."
A growing number of countries have committed to achieving net-zero emissions goals by around mid-century. As of the beginning of 2021, 126 countries – accounting for 51 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions – have net-zero goals that are formally adopted, announced or under consideration.